As technology continues to dictate and speed up the rate of obsolescence, e-waste recycling will become a more important and growing industry.
E-Waste Recycling: Repair, refurbish, reuse and repurpose electronic devices instead of throwing them away.
When we think about the tablet and phone trade-in events from recent years we often think about the sheer number of people getting new electronic devices, but we don’t talk much about what happens to all those trade-ins, let alone the number of electronic devices discarded because they broke, became obsolete, were lost, etc. These no-longer-wanted or unusable electronic devices are referred to as “e-waste.”
What is E-Waste Recycling?
E-waste is any type of electronic device or equipment that’s reached the end of its useful life, for whatever reason. It includes discarded computers, televisions, VCRs, stereos, radios, copiers, fax machines, tablets, smartphones, telephones (of any kind), and so on. Though these items have been discarded, many still work or can be repaired, refurbished, reused or recycled in order to make other products.
The sheer and ever-growing volume of electronic waste has even created a recycling segment known as e-waste recycling, which includes all of the ways electronics can be reused or repurposed. As technology continues to dictate and speed up the rate of obsolescence, more and more electronics will either be thrown away, accumulating in landfills (sometimes with harmful effects to the environment or people) or recycled.
Why is Electronic Waste Recycling So Important?
To answer the question of why e-Waste Recycling is such an important and fast-growing industry, let’s take a closer look at the statistics. According to data on e-pollution and electronic waste recycling published by electronicstakeback.com and the EPA:
- The average U.S. household spends $1,312 on consumer electronics products every year, and owns 24 devices.
- The release of Apple’s iPad5 generated the single largest surge of tablet trade-ins ever (as of January 2016 data).
- As of 2010, Americans were trashing or recycling 142,000 computers and more than 416,000 mobile devices every day.
- In 2013, Americans generated 3.14 million tons of e-waste in the U.S., of which only 1 million tons (40%) was recycled – the remainder ended up in landfills or incinerators.
- Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent of the electricity used by 3,657 U.S. homes in one year (EPA.gov); and,
- For every million cell phones recycled, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.
- The percentage of e-waste being recycled is increasing exponentially every year, growing from 10 percent in 2000 to 40.4% in 2013.
- The amount of e-waste is expected to grow (globally) from 41.9 metric tons in 2014 to 49.8 metric tons in 2018, 4-5% annually.
Obviously, electronic waste recycling is a big business, and one that will only grow as obsolescence rates for many different types of electronics continue to speed up with technology advances. IBISWorld.com estimates that this $8 billion industry will grow at an annual rate of 5.2% from 2011-2016. This industry employs more than 40,000 people and includes nearly 5,000 different organizations. Here are four reasons that you should make e-Recycling a priority both personally and professionally.
1. Sheer Volume
More than 20 million tons of e-waste are produced every year. As much as 80% of electronic waste goes out with the trash (according to EPA estimates) while only about 20% is properly recycled.
2. Adverse Effects of e-Pollution
The improper or informal processing of e-waste in developing countries can lead to adverse human health effects and environmental pollution. Electronic scrap components like CPUs (desktop computers) contain potentially harmful components such as lead, cadmium, beryllium, or brominated flame retardants.
3. Needless Waste
E-Waste Recycling recovers valuable materials from old electronics that can be used to make new products. As a result, we save energy, reduce pollution, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save resources by extracting fewer raw materials from the earth.
4. Convenient Solutions
At least 25 U.S. states have passed legislation mandating statewide electronics waste recycling. Several others are working on passing new laws or improving existing laws. 65% of the population of the U.S. is now covered by a state e-Waste Recycling law of some kind.
All e-Waste Recycling laws except for those in California and Utah use the Producer Responsibility approach (manufacturers must pay for recycling). In some cases, consumers are even required to pay toward the cost of e-Waste Recycling when purchasing a new electronic product.
As a result, there are electronics recycling drop off stations located throughout the United States. In addition, many electronics retailers (Best Buy, Staples, Dell, LG, Samsung, Sprint, and others) also offer incentives, hold events, and provide mail-in electronic recycling options. To find a recycling drop-off location near you, click on your state in E-cycling Central’s interactive map.
E-Waste On the Rise – E-Waste Recycling Industry Infographic